F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Previews

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix preview

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After a two week break, Formula 1 returns this weekend with the Malaysian Grand Prix as the first race in a double-header with the Bahrain Grand Prix. Following his dominant victory in Australia, Nico Rosberg is looking to equal his father’s tally of five grand prix victories this weekend, and it is hard to write off the German driver given the pace of the Mercedes W05 car.

However, Rosberg will have to be wary of the challenge posed by teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was forced to retire after just three laps in Australia due to an engine problem. The Briton will be looking to make up for lost time this weekend, as will defending world champion Sebastian Vettel following his own retirement down under.

You also have to consider the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button as possible race winners, whilst rookie Kevin Magnussen will be hoping to build upon his second place finish in Australia.

Finally, there’s that ever-present factor in Malaysia: the weather. This race has always been held in monsoon season, meaning that rain can strike at any time.

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Just how quick is Mercedes?

How much has really changed in Formula 1 over the winter? Once again in Australia, a German driver won the race with relative ease (albeit in a different car… and it was a different German…). Nico Rosberg seem rather relaxed when winning the race down under, like it was a formality. Will he and teammate Lewis Hamilton enter battle with each other this weekend for the race win?

Rookies hope to continue good form

Having made their debuts in Australia, Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat will be hoping for more of the same after both scoring points at Albert Park. In second place, Magnussen claimed the best result for a driver on debut since 1996, whilst Kvyat picked up some good points in ninth place, and even hassled Kimi Raikkonen for position at one point. Marcus Ericsson’s debut ended prematurely due to an oil pressure problem, but he too will be encouraged by his maiden Formula 1 outing.

Can Red Bull bounce back from fuelgate?

Everything has a -gate nowadays, and this is no exception. Following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix (which has been appealed), Red Bull needs a good weekend in Malaysia to avoid losing any more ground as the team bids for a fifth straight world title. The car is quick, certainly, but it needs to see the finish line if it is to give the team any points.

Bottas and Massa are the dark horses

With 19 overtakes, Valtteri Bottas provided a good chunk of the action in Australia, and it was a joy to watch him race. Had he not made contact with the wall when chasing Kimi Raikkonen, he may well have finished on the podium. Alongside teammate Felipe Massa (who retired at turn one), Bottas is a dark horse to give Williams a podium finish that would undoubtedly underline its pace for the coming year.

Honoring MH370

The Malaysian Grand Prix will be a rather subdued event this weekend following the recent disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. A number of teams will run with tributes on their cars, and a minute’s silence is expected to be held ahead of the race on Sunday.

Track: Sepang International Circuit, Sepang (5.3km)
Laps: 56
Corners: 15
Lap RecordJuan Pablo Montoya 1:34.223 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012 Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (McLaren) – 1:39.199
DRS Zones: Main straight (T15 to T1); T14 to T15

For the complete TV times and schedule, click here.

Shirley Muldowney surgery update: ‘Couldn’t have gone much better’

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Even though she hasn’t raced since 2003, Shirley Muldowney still has scores of fans.

And many of them, when they heard the news that she would undergo surgery today to remove her right lung due to Stage 2 lung cancer, offered prayers and well wishes on this site, as well as on social media.

Well, even though details are slim, it appears that a five-hour surgery Wednesday morning was a success for the 75-year-old, three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion and one-time AHRA champ.

Muldowney’s agent, Rob Geiger tweeted updates earlier this evening that is great news:

We plan on keeping Muldowney fans updated with more information in the coming days as she begins her recovery.

As Geiger said, “#ShirleyStrong.”

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MRTI: Freedom 100, new USF-17 launch highlight Indy oval weekend

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Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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INDIANAPOLIS – The Mazda Road to Indy has a double dip of content this weekend with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at the Lucas Oil Raceway short oval in Clermont, Ind., outside Indianapolis.

Both events are on Friday; the Freedom 100 airs at noon ET and local time as part of NBCSN’s Carb Day coverage. Kevin Lee, Anders Krohn and Katie Hargitt will have the call for the Freedom.

The Freedom 100 is arguably the marquee race of the year for Indy Lights, and a good springboard to the Verizon IndyCar Series – no less than 24 of the 33 starters in this year’s Indianapolis 500 field have some degree of Mazda Road to Indy experience.

That being said, the randomness of the Freedom 100 has produced a variety of winners who haven’t exactly gone on to huge things in IndyCar.

Here’s the past winners list:

  • 2015: Jack Harvey
  • 2014: Gabby Chaves
  • 2013: Peter Dempsey
  • 2012: Esteban Guerrieri
  • 2011: Josef Newgarden
  • 2010: Wade Cunningham
  • 2009: Wade Cunningham
  • 2008: Dillon Battistini
  • 2007: Alex Lloyd
  • 2006: Wade Cunningham
  • 2005: Jaime Camara
  • 2004: Thiago Medeiros
  • 2003: Ed Carpenter

That’s three past winners in Carpenter, Newgarden and Chaves who are racing on Sunday. Harvey, Dempsey and Guerrieri have a combined zero starts; meanwhile all of Cunningham, Battistini, Camara and Medeiros had less than a season of in IndyCar.

Polesitters have been random too, with some surprises including Ethan Ringel (last year) and Ken Losch (2007) of note.

Traditionally Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has fielded strong entries at the Speedway, and that puts any of its four cars – talented sophomore RC Enerson, Pro Mazda champion Santiago Urrutia and fellow rookies Andre Negrao and Heamin Choi into contention almost from the off. Enerson, in particular, is due his first win of the year after niggling turbo issues have hampered most of his season.

Belardi Auto Racing, given its engineering strength in depth, is also a strong contender and a winner here twice previously in dramatic fashion with Chaves and Dempsey. This year they have Zach Veach, who topped the 200-mph mark during testing on Monday, and Felix Rosenqvist, who will look for a significantly better second oval start than his first at Phoenix.

Either of Enerson and Veach would make it seven winners in eight races this year. The other six thus far are, in order, Felix Serralles, Rosenqvist, Kyle Kaiser, Ed Jones, Urrutia and Dean Stoneman.

Kaiser expects to be better than both he and the Juncos Racing team were here last year. Another potential surprise is Neil Alberico, who was strong in testing despite a slight incident in the first session.

Choi, replacing Scott Anderson, is the only driver change among the 16 entered for the Freedom 100. It’s the biggest field for this race since 2012, when 18 cars started – only 11 have started each of the last three years.

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Rendering: Andersen Promotions

Arguably the more intriguing part of the weekend from the Pro Mazda or USF2000 perspective is the launch of the new Tatuus USF-17 car, which gets unveiled Friday morning, 9 a.m., at IMS.

It’s the second new car to be unveiled at IMS in recent years, with the Dallara IL-15 Mazda having been unveiled in May 2014 ahead of its race debut for 20115.

The Pro Mazda and USF2000 races occur later in the day on Friday at IMS.

In Pro Mazda, the question is whether anyone can stop the Pato O’Ward roll of awesomeness for Team Pelfrey. The young Mexican has won five of six races to date, although teammate Aaron Telitz is a past winner at Lucas Oil Raceway in USF2000. The remaining six drivers in the field will look to end O’Ward’s run of form.

USF2000 sees its field temporarily cut in half for its lone oval race of the season, down from 27 cars entered at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend to a mere 14 cars on the 0.686-mile oval.

While Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and Pabst Racing have three cars entered apiece – Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin have propelled Cape to four straight wins this year -known oval setup ace John Walko will likely have Victor Franzoni’s car ready to go to contend.

Driver helmets looking very stylish for Sunday‘s Indianapolis 500

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If it’s spring and time for the Indianapolis 500, the best-dressed man and woman are sporting the newest fashions – on their heads, that is.

There’s a number of fascinating liveries on helmets for this year’s race. Some are tribute liveries, some homages to the race itself and some just switched up for the sake of it.

Here’s some of the more interesting helmets drivers will be wearing in the 100th running of the Indy 500 this Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

It’s a dog’s life: While ‘dad’ Simon is away, Norman Pagenaud will play

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Current Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud — who comes into Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 riding a three-race winning streak — has a new addition to the family: Norman Pagenaud.

The newest Pagenaud already has his own Twitter account and while ‘dad’ was in Detroit Tuesday during the annual NASCAR cross-country media tour day, Norman REALLY got to know his new home away from home: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Check out some of Norman’s best tweets of the day, as well as a few from Simon.

Oh, and did we mention that Norman is a puppy? He’s sooooooo cute!

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